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L.A. Unified seeks to reassure Jefferson High parents

Jefferson High Principal Jack Foote, left, tells Jefferson High parents why students had scheduling errors.
(Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles school officials tried to reassure concerned parents Monday that they have resolved most scheduling problems at Jefferson High School and also will make up for class time students have lost.

Fewer than three dozen students have ongoing issues with their schedule of classes that could affect their ability to graduate on time or apply for college, officials said at a meeting. And those students will quickly get the help they need to catch up, said Tommy Chang, the superintendent of instruction overseeing the South Los Angeles campus.

“We will fix that immediately this week,” Chang said at the hastily called late afternoon meeting. He also conceded: “There was a lot of lost instructional time and it is our job to make sure those minutes are made up.”

Pervasive scheduling difficulties caused students to be placed in the wrong subjects or wait in the school’s auditorium for two weeks before getting a class schedule. Some were simply sent home for part of the day. And many new schedules also had to be corrected.

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The district’s narrative only reached only about 100 parents Monday. The first notice of the meeting was sent out by phone Sunday at 4 p.m. and then twice more Monday. The balky student records system could have limited how many got the message.

“I’m worried about students in 11th grade taking the right classes,” said parent Samuel Cortez. “My son said they want to change the classes again. This is the third time. What is this?”

The faulty scheduling was not unique to Jefferson; other campuses also dealt with major hitches caused by a new student records system in the L.A. Unified School District. Challenges at Jefferson, however, were exacerbated by wholesale administrative turnover as well as by the glaring errors in the first master schedule, officials acknowledged.

Critics said the district did too little to address the crisis. And the district offered no other explanation when its actions became the subject of a court hearing last week.

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As a result, Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. chastised L.A. Unified for allowing the problems to persist and ordered the state to intervene. A state delegation came to Los Angeles for meetings Friday.

The picture was complicated further by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who, before the ruling, submitted a declaration on behalf of the Jefferson students, saying they were being shortchanged. Outside of court, Deasy blamed this situation on the teachers union. Deasy is now out of the country on a previously scheduled trip to South Korea.

At the meeting, officials asserted that district staff had descended immediately on Jefferson to help out after the initial fiasco, working overtime to create a new master schedule and get all students a full program within two weeks. The new schedules also had mistakes, but were corrected one by one, as quickly as possible, said Michelle Windmueller, the immediate supervisor for Jefferson’s principal.

Officials tallied the results this weekend. They found 48 students still enrolled in two or more periods of non-academic classes, in which they go home or do errands on campus, for example. But only seven were not on track to graduate.

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Meanwhile, 204 juniors are retaking a course they have already passed — another issue cited by advocates. Most of these students, however, needed to do so because their previous grade had been a D — which means the course would not count toward application requirements of the University of California and Cal State systems.

Twenty juniors and seniors are retaking courses that they do not need to do over. They will need revised schedules.

Officials reiterated their claim that teachers were partly to blame for the problems.

Teachers, they said, could have agreed, as a faculty, to a schedule that would have allowed for more needed courses at no additional cost to the school.

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The district, however, appears ready to yield on that point, and is likely to approve more funding for the campus. The Board of Education is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting Tuesday.

howard.blume@latimes.com

 


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